Woman killed in dog attack was ‘sensible and loved animals’, says friend in first tribute
The friend of a dog walker who died from multiple dog bites to the neck at a Surrey beauty spot has paid tribute to her last night as a "stoic young girl" who was "living a straight forward life".
Natasha Johnston, 28, died from “multiple penetrating dog bites to the neck” and a wound to her left jugular vein in the attack on Jan 12, an inquest at Surrey Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.
A post-mortem showed Ms Johnston, a professional dog walker from Croydon in south London, was killed by shock and a haemorrhage at a viewpoint and bridle path in Gravelly Hill, near Caterham.
On Tuesday night, a friend contacted The Telegraph to pay the first public tribute to Ms Johnston, saying they had been "in shock" since Ms Johnston's name was released on Monday and wanted to speak to a newspaper that had not speculated on the tragedy.
The friend, who wished to remain anonymous, insisted that Ms Johnston "was not new to dogs" having walked them for around five years and "worked really hard" training them, while revealing a sporty, funny and ordinary person with her life ahead of her.
Natasha 'was very confident but quietly confident'
In a touching tribute, the friend told The Telegraph: "I think what has happened is extremely unlucky, but there's been an implication since she died that she's only just picked up dog walking in the pandemic -- that's not true, she was walking dogs way before that.
"She was tall, a very sensible and quiet person, she was very confident but quietly confident. She had really lovely light blonde hair and sometimes she would dye it in pastille shades and I would always ask her about her hair."
The friend had walked dogs with Ms Johnston as well as paying Ms Johnston to walk their own dogs. "She just struck me as a young girl. I walked dogs daily with her at one point, looking after them, well in control of them, a professional," the friend added.
Ms Johnston, who grew up on the Isle of Wight, owned a golden doodle or a labradoodle and had previously owned a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and, the friend understood via another friend, had taken in a rescue dog.
The friend added: "I can't believe that such a strong, young, matter-of-fact sort of person is dead now at such a young age. Just such a sensible person who loves animals. I remember she went camping once and went canoeing and things like that.
"She's not a person who would rip people off or do awful things, she was a person living a straight forward life, living with her dad, driving a beat-up car, walking dogs and loving animals.
"I never thought it could be anyone I knew, I just can't believe that this has happened to her.
"She was funny, she was a dry person that didn't have a lot to prove - like a lot of people want to prove that they're funny or love sport or whatever - she wasn't like that, more of a stoic person who was just focused on managing her day and dog walking.
"My dog loved her, dogs loved her and she was very on it if a dog was misbehaving -- she was absolutely straight on it and very focused. She really worked very hard on training the dogs."
Since the attack, eight dogs have been seized and remain in private kennels for tests. None were banned breeds, with two Dachshunds and an 11-stone Leonberger named Shiva among them. It is not known how many Ms Johnston was walking, given at least one other woman who sustained minor injuries was involved.
At the opening of an inquest into her death on Tuesday, Simon Wickens, the coroner in Woking, expressed his “sincere condolences” to Ms Johnston’s family “and all those touched by her life”. No family members were at the brief hearing.
Surrey Police's investigation was closed last week with no prosecutions to be brought against individuals. The full inquest will begin on June 29.